The controversy over the choice of the Vice Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was very much anticipated given the fragile nature of our federation which requires political dexterity in the management of our heterogeneity with high sense of sensitivity to inclusiveness. Our federation is fraught with natural faults lines which need to be carefully managed rather than exacerbated with a choice of Muslim-Muslim ticket. By this choice, the spirit of mutual respect, understanding, accommodation, trust and ultimately mutual co-existence has been greatly threatened, more so against the background of the exacerbation of the fault lines under the Buhari administration. In place of all these, mutual suspicion and antagonism will reign supreme as even the joy of the victors will take a flight because peace hardly exists where there is no justice.
The justification of the APC’s choice of its vice presidential candidate on the grounds of competence and capacity and its subsequent parroting by protagonists, is a seemingly smart but deceptive strategy to cover what antagonists and conspiracy theorists had longed alleged to be a planned pursuit of a hidden “fulanisation” agenda using islamisation-based sentiments and policies as unifying ploy and factor for all Moslems across the country. And the antagonists therefore argue that if the protagonists say that there are no competent Christians in the whole of the Northern part of the country, then they are simply deceiving themselves.
The argument for example goes further that if the highly respected gentleman called Mr. Boss Mustapha (a Christian and the current Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF) from the North-east, and who risked his life serving as the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (now Presidential Steering Committee on COVID) during the most dangerous period of the pandemic, does not have competence and capacity to be considered for the VP slot of the APC, then the dictionary meanings of the two words have been changed overnight. Again, if the APC protagonists did not find the serving governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, who has been very loyal in protecting the interests of the “core” North (even at the expense of his people, some would say) was not found suitable to be the VP, then the APC has a clear and different agenda which has nothing to do with its song and parroting of competence and capacity, to justify its choice.
In actual fact, those who argue that antagonists (i.e. Christians and their sympathisers) should remove religion from politics are the ones who in the first place brought religion into politics going by the political history of this country. The Constituent Assembly debates in the late 1970s bear testimony to this. The imposition of Sharia by the then governor of Zamfara State under the Obasanjo administration (1999 to 2007), is another good example. So when protagonists (Muslims and their sympathisers) argue that Muslim-Muslim ticket does not matter, the antagonists will reply that it matters because it has been a big project among some Northern politicians, clerics and collaborators over the years. They argue that they have seen how Governor Nasir El-Rufai imposed it insensitively in Kaduna State. They have also seen how some Northern politicians have been trying to “religionise” or bring religion into our political space over the years and much faster under the Buhari administration.
Again, if religion does not matter in politics as the protagonists deceptively want the antagonists to believe, why would Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State announce to Moslem clerics with excitement (turning his neck with joy and laughter at 180 degree) that the APC had decided to pick a Muslim – Muslim ticket? The way he announced it with extreme excitement revealed an ultimate victory of a hidden struggle over time to achieve the goal. And by the way, was it a mere coincidence that the former SGF, Mr. Babachir Lawal, made an allegation against this same Governor Ganduje, while voicing his vehement objection to the Muslim-Muslim ticket? For Lawal, the ticket is a disastrous error and grave injustice.
It is against this backdrop that many people (Christians and Moslems alike) who wish this country to remain as one, have voiced their opposition to the lopsided ticket. Aside from Christian clerics, some Moslem clerics have also objected to it, for lack of inclusiveness, fairness, justice and equity, just as Aisha Yesufu (a social media influencer) called it “an insult to fairness, equity and justice,” as “it is impunity of the worst kind.” Given the danger that lack of inclusiveness of the ticket portends, the fears of people on the other side are already heightened and will continue to be heightened the more. But we may ask: does a Muslim-Muslim ticket have the capacity to rescue, unify and rebuild Nigeria along the path of sustainable development, or does it have the potential to intensify our fault lines and completely destroy what is left of Nigeria of today? We will continue the discussion in the next instalment about what makes the fears palpable.
•Prof. Obasi, a public policy expert is of the Department of Public Administration, University of Abuja. Email: [email protected]